By: John Nee '93
The "Skating" Mustangs opened Kennedy Cup playoff action over the weekend with a first-round matchup against Benet Academy in Mount Prospect, and St. Rita swept the Redwings 2-0 to advance to the semi-finals this weekend against the top-seeded St. Ignatius Wolfpack.
In the opener on Friday night junior Evan O'Neil lit the lamp in overtime to give the Mustangs a hard-fought 3-2 victory and a (1-0) series lead in the best of 3 first-round matchup. Senior all-CCHL goalie Kyle Gustafson was stellar between the pipes stopping 28 of 30 Redwing shots on the evening.
With the scored tied 1-1 late in the third, St. Rita senior Dave Bauer gave the Mustangs the lead with 25 seconds remaining in the game only to have Benet answer with only 8 seconds to go to send the game into overtime.
In game 2 on Saturday night the Mustangs seemed to strike first early in the first only to have the goal disallowed allowing Benet to take a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period.
The Mustangs tied it 1-1 on junior Andrew Capuano's goal midway thru the second, and then St. Rita took a 2-1 lead 2:38 into the third. With just under 7 minutes remaining Benet would find the back of the net to tie the score at 2 setting the stage for a second straight overtime between the two evenly matched teams.
For the second consecutive evening, the Mustangs were forced to kill a power play in OT before junior all-stater Luke Napleton ended it with a shot from between the circles sending the Mustang bench into frenzy as they advanced to the second round of the Kennedy Cup playoffs with a 3-2 overtime winner over Benet.
Gustafson was outstanding in the series stopping 71 of a possible 75 shots while Napleton and Cupuano (2 goals each) led the offensive attack.
The fourth-seeded Mustangs will now battle top-seeded St. Ignatius in the Kennedy Cup semis (St. Viator and Providence will battle in the other semi) with puck drop for game one on Saturday 5pm at SIA.